Being convicted of a criminal offense can impact your quality of your life, complicate your future and restrict your freedom. A criminal record can bring shame to your family’s reputation, friends and neighbors may shun you, employers may refuse to hire you, landlords may not rent to you, you may be restricted from foreign travel and may never be able to carry a gun (even for hunting or self-defense) or get a security clearance. Once you have been convicted of a crime, it is difficult to get that conviction off your record, so always consider hiring a criminal defense attorney at the early stages of a criminal case.

What is expungement?

An expungement is the removal of a specific criminal offense from your criminal record. Practically speaking, your record will not magically disappear, but if an expungement is granted, the expunged conviction is considered not to have occurred. The process of requesting and obtaining an expungement varies from state to state. Not everyone is allowed to petition the court for an expungement, and some criminal convictions may not be eligible for expungement.

The expungement process.

For a non-lawyer, the expungement process can be confusing. If you quality for an expungement, you do not want to mess up on your request, so carefully consider using a criminal defense lawyer to handle the process. You will need the details of your arrest, the charges brought against you and the disposition of your case. You will need specific information about your punishment. You may need to get fingerprinted too. Then you will complete and file the proper paperwork in the right court and a hearing will be set. If you are handling the expungement on your own, make sure you serve copies of your paperwork on the right parties and obtain the right proof of service.

If you do all the paperwork right and serve the right parties, you will show up at your hearing to make your request in person and answer any questions from the court. You may be challenged by a number of people who object to your expungement, such as law enforcement officers, jailers or even victims.

If things go in your favor, the court will grant your request and issue an Expungement Order. Once you have that order, you need to send the order to a number of different people to ensure that your records are properly updated.

An Expungement Order may mean you no longer have to answer “yes” to the question “Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense?”